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Location: Los Angeles, California

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ratatouille Redux

Saw "Ratatouille" a second time, and my first judgment pretty much holds up. Brad Bird's second Pixar feature is a lovely picture - beautifully animated with a sweet and meaningful story.

Yet, it fails to reach the realm of "The Incredibles" or "Finding Nemo." Part of the problem has to be that this originally wasn't Bird's film; he took over for Jan Pinkava, who was struggling to bring in a quality script. You can definitely sense Bird's touch in the film, especially in some of the comic touches (perhaps the best joke comes early on... we see a French couple fighting, the woman pulls out a gun, accidentally shoots the ceiling, and then the couple makes up the only way the French know how). But, Bird is still left with a story that's doesn't reach for the stars.

The middle act lags. Since Remy (the rat) and Linguini (the human) cannot really talk to one another, the narrative becomes fractured. While this movie is definitely Remy's story, we are left with long stretches when he doesn't really contribute. The transitions between "rat world" and "human world" aren't fluid; it feels like two separate movies trying very hard to coexist, but it's not a perfect fit. And the relationship between Remy and Linguini, while touching, never connects in the way Marlin and Dory or Woody and Buzz did.

But it's still a visual treat. Bird loves CGI's ability to free the camera, and his virtual cinematography swoops, pivots, and dives with effortless grace and agility. The scene when Remy tries to escape from the kitchen is a roller-coaster tour de force; it's a scene that's only possible when using zeroes and ones.

It'll be interesting to see how Bird handles the jump to live-action with his next project, "1906."

Rating: ***1/2 (out of ****)

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